In 2010, Volkswagen's Golf underwent a complete redesign and had something for everyone.
The hatchback came in three- and five-door variations and was propelled by a 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine, which made it a hot rod. With 170 horsepower pushing a 1,376-kilogram body, the three-door version with a manual gearbox, for example, could hustle from 0-to-100 km/h in about eight seconds. Few of its competitors could match these numbers.
There was also a TDI version with a turbodiesel engine, as well as a station wagon and lively GTI sport hatch. But these three were different animals, with distinct driving characteristics and unique engineering. And just to complicate things further, in Canada, VW also sold the City Golf, which was essentially the former generation, featuring a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine and a significantly lower price tag.
You could get the garden-variety hatchback in three trim levels: Trendline, Sportline and Highline. The Highline was only offered with the five-door version. Differences included bigger wheels and tires, a power sunroof, different seats, tighter suspension, heated front seats and various other odds and sods. Base transmission was a five-speed manual, and you could also get a six-speed automatic.
Standard equipment level with the Trendline was decent. You got cruise control, air conditioning, remote central locking and power-adjustable mirrors. Heated front seats, and heated windshield nozzles were also available, but were not standard equipment.
One thing that separated the Golf from its competitors was that it had an upscale feel to it. Aside from a little engine growl, it was arguably the quietest hatchback on the market with minimal NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and tasteful interior trim, full instrumentation and sensible ergonomics.
Fold down the 60/40 back seat and there was 1,310 litres of storage space, which compared favourably with the Mazda3 and Toyota Matrix.
That said, the five-cylinder Golf was a little shy on fuel economy. The three-door with the five-speed manual was rated at 10.4 litres/100 km in town by Natural Resources Canada, and 7.0 on the highway. These numbers were below just about every other competitor in this end of the market. The City Golf was slightly better.
Two safety recalls from Transport Canada to report: one concerns the TDI version, which could have fuel line issues, and the other affects all five-cylinder models, also involving the fuel supply. In this case, a plastic tab on the windshield washer fluid reservoir could "chafe" against the fuel line and potentially cause it to leak, which may result in a fire. VW dealers will replace the fuel line if it's been affected.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, meanwhile, has 25 technical service bulletins for the 2010 Golf. These include possible timing chain slippage, low fuel pressure resulting in hard-to-start problems, fine snow getting into the HVAC system during cold weather, engine failure and issues with the automatic gearbox experiencing "delay" before the vehicle gets under way. Lots to think about here, in other words.
Consumer Reports is divided about the Golf. On the one hand, it likes its crisp handling and ride quality and agree that it's fun to drive. On the other hand, the magazine acknowledges that the Golf has "a long history of iffy reliability." It scores well in most areas, but only rates an "average" reliability rating. Nonetheless, it's one of this organization's "good bet" choices. Some comments from owners: "A blast to drive," "High quality throughout" and "At idle, I am barely aware it's running."
Market research firm J.D. Power is also on the fence. It likes the comfort level and powertrain, but has misgivings about the overall mechanical and feature and accessories quality. This edition of the Golf gets a below-average rating for predicted reliability from J.D. Power.
Pricewise, the 2010 Golf has held up well. The base three-door Trendline is in the low to mid-teens neighbourhood, while the top of the range five-door Highline is approaching the $20,000 neighbourhood. The three-door goes for slightly less than the five-door, depending upon equipment level.
2010 Volkswagen Golf
Original Base Price: $20,175; Black Book: $16,025-$18,425; Red Book: $13,725-$15,575
Engine: 2.5-litre, five-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 170 hp/177lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed manual and six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.4 city/7.0 highway (manual transmission); regular gas
Alternatives:Mazda3, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Toyota Matrix, Kia Rondo, Nissan Versa